Advocates call for Sharisa Kochmeister’s freedom

Sharisa Kochmeister (From MySpace)

Sharisa Kochmeister (From MySpace)

Denver — An autism advocate is reportedly being held against her will in a Jefferson County care home.

Sharisa Kochmeister is a 36-year-old college graduate who was diagnosed with autism, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy. She was a member of the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council executive committee, and was once the president of the Autism National Committee.

All her life she was being cared for by her father. And although she is non-verbal, she constantly communicated with both her father and sister through a computer, where she typed in the things she wanted to say using one finger.

But in March of this year, authorities have accused her father of abuse during an incident in a Denver hospital where it was seen that he had pushed Sharisa after she had kicked him.

The incident apparently started after he used his finger to clear her throat when she threw up.

Both the Denver police and Jefferson County Human Services were called in and alerted of the incident. And although the Denver district attorney later on found no sufficient evidence to charge her father, Jefferson County authorities still insisted on taking over custody of Sharisa, alleging that her father was trying to cover up his crime and that it was a case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome— wherein caregivers abuse their victims by faking or exaggerating symptoms or illnesses of their victims.

Sharisa was brought to a nursing home and was allegedly prohibited from seeing her father, her family, and her friends.

Although she graduated with honors and a dual degree from the University of Denver, and was tested with a genius-level IQ, Sharisa refused to communicate with the nursing home’s staff who now say her IQ is at 47— which indicates that she is mentally disabled.

Autism advocates were outraged by how Jefferson County has been treating Sharisa, calling their actions “torture“. According to Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Director Julie Reiskin:

“You take someone who is nonverbal, who is dependent on one person for communicating, and you remove that … this makes me so mad. This is part of not understanding a population. You put them in an institution against their will with a bunch of people who have dementia. This is torture.”

A petition on change.org has been started by advocates, calling for Sharisa’s freedom.

Sources: Jeremy Meyer in Denver Post An outrageous human services case in Jefferson County
The Autism Wars Where is Sharisa Joy Kochmeister? The War for Safety, Personhood, and Competence

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Roberta Hill About Roberta Hill

Roberta Hill is an Expat who likes to write about her challenges running a virtual business and raising a family abroad. She has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from University of Western Ontario and a Diploma in Early Childhood Education from McGill University.

Roberta has been self employed for the past 25 years. Her oldest step son is on the autism spectrum.

Comments

  1. Theresa Fears says:

    As a nursing home resident Sharisa Kochmeister is protected by state and national resident’s rights laws that include freedom of association – even if there is an APS finding (which apparently there isn’t) and access to communication tools. Go to http://denverregion.co.networkofcare.org/aging/library/article.aspx?id=125
    to learn the specifics of local nursing home resident’s rights laws. Also, she could enlist the assistance local Long Term Care Ombudsman who assures the rights of people in nursing homes. The nursing home could be setting itself up for citation or worse by participating in a violation of Sharisa’s rights.